Must Be Gold Dust*

The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge

 *Refers to Hathin’s name, which is supposed to sound like dust settling.

First Look:

It piques my interest.  There are a lot of story elements in the picture, some of which you can’t appreciate till almost the end of the book.  So right there, it’s head and shoulders above the average YA novel.  Plus, no inappropriately fancy clothing!  Hathin has no time for parties, she’s too busy fixing everything ever.

Jacket Copy:

On an island of sandy beaches, dense jungles, and slumbering volcanoes, colonists seek to apply archaic laws to a new land, bounty hunters stalk the living for the ashes of their funerary pyres, and a smiling tribe is despised by all as traitorous murderers. It is here, in the midst of ancient tensions and new calamity, that two sisters are caught in a deadly web of deceits.

Arilou is proclaimed a beautiful prophetess–one of the island’s precious oracles: a Lost. Hathin, her junior, is her nearly invisible attendant. But neither Arilou nor Hathin is exactly what she seems, and they live a lie that is carefully constructed and jealously guarded.

When the sisters are unknowingly drawn into a sinister, island-wide conspiracy, quiet, unobtrusive Hathin must journey beyond all she has ever known of her world–and of herself–in a desperate attempt to save them both. As the stakes mount and falsehoods unravel, she discovers that the only thing more dangerous than the secret she hides is the truth she must uncover.

Sequel?

No, and although it’s a nice complete story, this is one time when I would be thrilled to hear rumors of a sequel.  Don’t leave me, Hathin!  I want to hear more about your adventures!

Worth Reading?

So much!  Now, it may be hard to get into if you are only into action-packed thrillers: it’s got a slow build.  But!  If you stick with it, your patience will be rewarded!

Notable Things:

Worldbuilding!  And I don’t mean that the way I usually mean it, by saying that the author came up with a society that sounds like a real place.  Hardinge went full-on Tolkien with this book, coming up with at least TWO full cultures and parts of several others, crafting mythologies, some bits of language (okay, I know Tolkien did more than “bits” of language), geography, intercultural conflicts, history….you name it!  Only shorter than LOtR.  My only quibble here: why no map in the book?  Geography is very important to the plot, and I know you have it visualized.  It’s cool if you’re not good at drawing–your other talents are impressive enough–but you could have asked someone else.

Island Culture!  Hardinge did not base her cultures on any one culture that I know of (she actually put an author’s note to that effect in the front of the book), but unlike many a fantasy since Tolkien, her world is nothing like Middle Earth.  (I would not put Lost Conspiracy in the high fantasy category, but because it is definitely not a particular real place, I guess it’s a fantasy more than it’s not.)  (The kids in the photo are from Guam.)

Grills!  Okay, this might not be a bonus factor for you–it’s actually not really for me, either,if you’re talking about rapper-style grills–but it’s one example of Hardinge’s talent at worldbuilding.  The Lace all have fancy grills, and smile all the time, with emotional expression coming completely from their eyes and other facial muscles.  While I could not help wondering whether their mouths get super dry from all that smiling, their smiles become super important later in the book.

Elaboration:

I’ve already elaborated a lot more than normal in the other sections, but I love this book so much! Besides what I’ve already mentioned: Hardinge will surprise you with a strange metaphor that you would never have thought of but nevertheless makes complete sense, her characters are delightful and real, there’s not really a romance, Hathin is neither too brave nor too smart, but just enough of both.  I could go on, but then you would be wasting time reading my review and not this book.

Disclosure:

Borrowed, because I am poor and live in a small apartment.

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